Almost three weeks into this sweetener-free challenge. How has it been?
Basically, not as bad as I thought.
I knew it wouldn’t be that challenging to eat savoury dishes without sweetener. I don’t need the sweetness at mealtime. Right now, I have been getting my fix from roasting and coaxing the sugars from vegetables.
However, I like to eat raw veggies, too. Even if it is winter (yes, snow = wintertime). In the summer, I had a habit of adding fruit to my salads. Now, I add more vegetables instead. Red peppers are quite sweet, too, as well as snap peas. Carrots, too!
I also like tart ingredients, which begs for a bit of sweetener to be added to my dressings. For now, I tried to keep the tart ingredients to a minimum to help keep the sweeteners lower. I can’t stay away from lime and lemon too long but I did not find this dressing was lacking without sweetener.
This is a great salad, focusing on sweeter vegetables (red pepper, carrot and snap peas) while contrasting it with more bitter/greener veggies like baby bok choy and just cooked broccoli. Edamame gives some sustenance to a veggie-heavy bowl. The dressing was complex, with ginger, miso and lime, as well as toasted sesame oil and tamari. I wasn’t sure about it when I tasted it on a spoon, but combined with the veggies, topped with toasted sesame seeds, everything was well matched.
I would hate to mislead you that this is a very unchallenging challenge. One just needs a plan.
Nevermind the constant bombardment of fabulous dishes from fellow bloggers, and with fruit galore in our kitchen for Rob, there continues to be a lot of temptation. Especially when I find an apple to be a quick, satisfying snack. Or there are berries in the fridge. However, I replaced that snack with raw carrots and hummus. I am also drinking a lot more tea. Three times a day. I am loving all things chai right now, especially Yogi’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut which is a creamy, sweet chai blend. Except after a week of nearly daily consumption did I realize that one of its ingredients is stevia leaf, which explains its sweetness. I have a few other stevia-free chai blends that I have added into my tea rotation, though.
My biggest fear was breakfast actually (no fruit in my oatmeal?!), but I will share those thoughts in another post.
While tackling my list of bookmarked recipes, I knew not everything would be a winner.
My criteria for my eats? First of all, it must be whole foods oriented (nothing white- flour, rice, etc) with limited oil and salt. A lover of most international cuisines, I try not to discriminate but it must be filled with ingredients I love. Beans! Quinoa! Greens! Squash! Lemon! I also like to see a few reviews of the recipe. N=30 is better than n=1 for liking a dish.
I may try to incorporate a new-to-me food or one I haven’t previously enjoyed. I won’t even try to like celery, though. I have given up on green pepper. And now I have sworn off parsley, too.
I have a few parsley recipes here, although usually it is just a flavour accent. I should have known better, and even thoguh I reduced the parsley in this salad, it was still too prominent for me. My parsley came from a friend, so perhaps this local, organic homebrew was more potent?
In any case, this recipe is a knock-off of Fresh‘s All-Star Tabbouleh Salad with adzuki beans and quinoa. It made its rounds earlier this summer, first posted by Angela and subsequently Kass. Sadly, I give very few stars to the salad.
But, all is not lost because extra stars go to the absolute best roasted sweet potatoes ever. I know, a very ballsy statement. I have a witness. Rob agreed with me. So, you have n=2 from us. Lots of positive reviews from Kath’s post, which I bookmarked many moons ago.
Suffice it to say, it may take a while, but the roasted sweet potatoes have a nice skin on the outside while being pillowy soft on the inside. After a little rub of olive oil, salt and pepper, you roast them at 350F for 30 minutes, then 400F for 20 minutes. A simple flick of the knob makes for the most glorious sweet potatoes.
Please try it out and let me know whether you like it, too! Perfect for an upcoming Thanksgiving feast.
Cilantro, you either love it or hate it.
As you may have figured out, I am in the cilantro-loving camp.
On the theme of delicious sauces, this one is definitely a keeper. I shouldn’t have doubted it for a second, as it comes courtesy of Tess in The Two Week Wellness Solution.
Originally, I made a half recipe. Trust me, I was kicking myself. I slurped up nearly a quarter of the sauce just “sampling it” with some crackers, it was that good. I had to make it again, it was that awesome!
Cilantro is the major flavour in the sauce, with hits from the ginger, garlic, basil and fresh lime juice. The peanut butter and light coconut milk make this a creamy sauce which balances the bold flavours nicely.
So, what to do with it once you’ve licked your fingers clean a few hundred times? Textured crackers work well, too, although this is more of a sauce than a dip. The sauce would work well overtop vegetables with your favourite grain, too.
To get a bit more fancy, Tess had 2 recipes in her book using this sauce.
The first recipe was for Thai shiitake-basil spring rolls using this as the dip. I ended up making collard wraps with the same filling substituting kelp noodles, drizzling the sauce inside and around the wraps. The fresh herbs and veggies, along with the sauteed shiitakes worked well. The star was definitely the dipping sauce.
The next recipe I loved was the “Sexy Saucy Noodles“. Broccoli, mushrooms and edamame are sauteed in toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. Throw in your noodles of choice (I used kelp noodles but soba would work well here) and douse heavily with the sauce. Stir to combine. Garnish with carrots, sprouts, fresh herbs, etc. Delicious. The sauce isn’t as strong, but the flavours are great.
For maximum dip enjoyment: Lick your fingers.
The point of making a sushi rice bowl salad is that it is easier than rolling numerous sushi rolls. I know, I’ve done it before.
So why would I bastardize a perfectly nice sushi salad by turning it into a wrap?
A collard wrap, of all things, instead of a sushi roll.
As you probably figured out, I like wraps, especially when wrapped with a green leaf like Swiss chard, kale, collard or even Romaine lettuce. Hearty greens don’t go soggy. My leaves are usually small enough for bite-size snacks, rolling up a few for tasty meal. While I also like salads, I preferred this as a wrap. With a wrap, you make sure every component of the salad hits your palate at the same time.
The idea of this wrap came from Appetite for Reduction, after Ashley posted her version. In my wrap, you get your zing from the green onions, the crunch from the carrots and cucumber, the salty earthiness from the shredded nori with a savoury note from sesame seeds all firmed up with a background from coarse bulgur and slippery edamame. The collard leaf keeps it all together. The green onion miso dressing is great within the wrap, and you can always add more if you use it as a dipping sauce. As a salad, the Asian ingredients seem a bit disjointed, but in the wrap, they work so well together.. because you can experience it all in every bite.
If you are tired of eating delicate leafy green-based salads, consider turning it into a green wrap. Where your greenery is just presented in a different form.
Thanks for all the encouragement about my long cycling commute. Last week was a short week, but I thought I’d update you on my commute. I am still working on the optimal way of combining gym + cycling commute, but later in the week, I cut down on my distance by going to the gym closer to home. Instead of 37km, I biked 25km each day. I am also biking at a moderately leisure pace instead of racing to work. My instinct is always to push as hard as I can, but I told myself I was focusing on endurance this week. One of my favourite downhills in the city always used to have me trying to go faster than 50 km/h. This time, I didn’t ride like a madwoman and still maxed out at 47 km/h. I thought I would be super sore by the end of the week, but it has actually gone very well.
Part of the problem on Mondays is that I really like Steve, the spinning instructor who teaches downtown on Monday mornings. Sadly, the gym next to my home has poor programming Monday mornings but I stuck closer to home for the other days. The route uptown from home is also safer, nearly 80% on the Don Valley bicycle path, so I am away from cars and traffic lights.
So is the commute downtown worth it for the spinning class? I think so. I am drawn to positive instructors. A group exercise instructor does a lot more than lead a routine. It is about inspiring the class (“the team”) to push themselves further than what they would do otherwise. Steve’s classes always seem to push me. He explains the intensities of the exercises at a level that is very easy to grasp (challenging but comfortable, pick a resistance that you can only sustain for 5 minutes, etc) and makes it easier for me to challenge myself. He is also great at using inspirational messages. In normal life, I know it sounds so dorky, but when you are pushing yourself to the limit, his messages keep me going longer. For a while he was reminding us never to say I can’t do this. It is just something you haven’t done yet.
If you love inspirational messages, check out a few more gems here:
Know your limits, then defy them
If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.
Yesterday you said tomorrow.
Nothing hurts more than sitting on a couch.
Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right. (Henry Ford)
No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.
Now about this salad. It is another salad bursting with whole foods and boasts a higher protein content. Wild rice is not rice at all, instead it is a seed. Higher in protein, with a lower glycemic index, it is a great gluten-free option for hearty salads. Coupled with edamame and tofu, loaded with carrots, sprinkled with greens and doused in a sesame-lemon-miso dressing, you have an unassuming salad that will make you anticipate lunch time.
For those of you who go to exercise classes, do you feel drawn to your instructors? Do you feel guilty when you skip their classes?
There is one problem with my list of top cookbooks for my move.
What if I buy new cookbooks?
Sometimes the Book Depository makes it a bit too easy to buy new books. Americans are already blessed with cheap prices and even cheaper shipping options, but in Canada, things are a bit more expensive. Prices on books are reasonable on amazon.ca but I usually wait until I have an order over $40 for free shipping. And by that time, I may have decided not to buy the cookbook afterall. At The Book Depository, even though they ship from the UK, it is free shipping. Because it is from the UK, there is also no tax. I have not been hit with customs fees either, yet.
After I borrowed Bean by Bean from the library, I knew this cookbook was totally up my alley. Beans, beans, beans. Lots of information, this is almost a book of short stories describing each dish! Mostly vegetarian and vegan-friendly recipes. International themed. I also love the multiple variations for the recipes – swapping in different ingredients for a different meal. The only drawbacks were the heavy handedness with the oil (not too hard to fix) and serving sizes that are far too generous (again, not too hard to fix). So far, it I think it was a well spent $10.49.
So after I sorted my new cookbooks in alphabetical order, it turned out that Bean by Bean was lucky cookbook #17 for the Random Recipe challenge this month. I was excited to try any (non meatist) recipe, so I flipped it and it fell open to this very green Bok Choy, Broccoli and Edamame Skillet… which I decided to serve with millet (and no, not just because it rhymes).
I have bookmarked quite a few very simple beans + greens + lemon stir-fries but had yet to try one, so I was quite pleased to be bluntly encouraged to make this for Random Recipes. This recipe is great because it is so simple. No garlic, nor onion (gasp) just veggies and edamame with lemon. First, get your millet cooking, chop your veggies and then after a quick stirfry with a squeeze of lemon (and Aleppo, my addition), you have a tasty meal. A super green one at that. Pick your own favourite greens (baby spinach would be great), vegetables (I am still partial to broccoli but carrots would be nice, too), bean (any takers for chickpeas) and grain (quinoa, yes please). While Dragonwagon says this would serve 2-4 with pasta as a main dish, this was more like 6 servings when I added in the millet.
I am a victim of my own success.
Nearly a year ago, I started my whole foods vegan diet, or vegan on steroids as Rob likes to put it. I did it primarily for health and environmental concerns and haven’t looked back.
No, really, there is no turning back. I know some people wonder why I can’t just eat something if it has meat broth, or snack on whole wheat bread, or just eat the darn white rice. There is a reason for my choices and I don’t want to compromise. Not all vegan food is healthy.
On the rare occasion, I have made small compromises. Last summer, I went to a potluck where a friend didn’t know about my food choices and quickly whipped up some deep-fried tofu-and-lotus root croquettes for me. I should have stuck to my lentil salad, but I also nibbled on a rice dish and the croquettes. I left that night with a belly beyond bloated. At the time, we thought maybe I had mistakenly eaten something with shrimp (of which I do have allergies) because I reacted so badly.
I have travelled a lot this year, some for vacation, other times for interviews and this time for a conference. I have become really good at planning for success: finding a grocery store and appropriate restaurants, if need be. This time, I returned to my favourite Vancouver hotel not only because it is affordable, but because I have a mini-fridge in my room and access to a communal kitchen. I also know that T&T is close for me to pick up affordable groceries. Because I didn’t have to cross borders, I brought some veggies, hummus (this Ginger-Lime-Wasabi Edamame Hummus!) and some leftovers with me to tie me over until I was able to shop at T&T. I even brought a dressing in anticipation of buying frozen edamame, a quick and easy way for me to get my bean fix.
I was pretty diligent about picking up some produce to bring me back to my normal routine: tea and grapefruit to start the day. I planned for a simple oatmeal+flax+fruit breakfast, but instead was wooed by Ruth’s Chia Goodness at T&T. Basically it is a souped up chia pudding and I am adamant to recreate it for my next travel destination. It is easier than my portable overnight oats since I have been using water as the liquid instead of nondairy milk. I picked up a bunch of veggies to make some collard wraps with my hummus (pea shoots, carrots and cucumber), and edamame for my bean salad.
However, I left Toronto’s balmy summer weather and was greeted by Vancouver’s cold and wet conditions. In the span of an hour, I can see it pouring torrential rain, followed by some snow/sleet and then the sun will come out and dry it all away. With this chilling weather, by the time a few days rolled around, the last thing I wanted to eat was another cold salad or wrap.
While I had earlier success at some nearby raw restaurants (Gorilla Food‘s Main St Monkey sandwich is so good!), I scoped out some hot vegan eats at nearby Nuba, a Lebanese resto with many vegan options. I had enjoyed my meal there last year, so I was eager to have a large glass of carrot-beet-ginger-lime juice, as well as mujaddara. I also opted for a small side of Najib’s special: crispy cauliflower with lemon and sea salt, with a tahini sauce. Unfortunately, a few hours later, I had a bloated belly… However, a few days later, I thought maybe their red lentil soup and falafels could sooth my cold soul. Not so. Within minutes of finishing my plate, my belly was bloated again. I thought I had picked hearty bean dishes, but my plan had been foiled. Even when I don’t know what the offending food is, my belly cannnot be fooled.
In retrospect, I have blamed it on the deep-frying.The mujaddara had deep-fried crispy onions, that crispy cauliflower – yeah, it was deep-fried, too, and those falafels were also deep-fried. Suffice it to say, I don’t deep-fry anything at home and this was probably what caused my troubles.
You see, I cannot go back to my old ways.
Many bloggers have recently adopted a vegetarian, vegan or whole foods way of eating. I would love to know if you’ve experienced the same since changing. Before I went whole foods, I never really had any digestive issues. Now, a small deviation into junk can easily trigger something nasty. Annie recently said she notices changes immediately when she deviates from her vegan, gluten-free diet.
Anyways, back to the hummus. Hummus is the perfect travel food in my opinion, because all you need are some veggies to dip and you are good to go! It can also go a bit more fancy with a collard wrap or a hummus dressing for a raw kale salad. While I prefer the traditional recipe, you can easily mix things up with different flavours – any takers for pomegranate red pepper or Indian-spiced? This time, I opted for a spin off of Gena’s Ginger Lime Edamame Hummus which I had immediately bookmarked last summer.
I’ve made some fabulously creamy edamame dips (edamame miso dip and edamame guacamole), so I knew this wouldn’t disappoint. I liked Gena’s suggestion for ginger and lime. Instead of tobasco sauce, though, I added wasabi powder to continue with the Asian theme. It contrasted nicely with the sharp bite from the ginger and the acidity from the lime, all the while creamy from the edamame and tahini.
Yet another successful variation on hummus. I think I will warm it up to counteract my shunning of all cold foods.
It is no secret that Rob and I may choose our next vacation destination based on its cuisine. Obviously, Iceland wasn’t picked based on its cuisine, although the food I had was top-notch (although not Icelandic).
One country that is creeping up in our list of places to visit is Jamaica. I don’t know how widespread the Rastafari movement is, but with its mostly-vegan cuisine (called ital), vegan options free of chemical and artificial additives should be available throughout Jamaica. According to wikipedia, they prefer more natural vegetables and fruits such as coconut and mango. Rob would be in heaven.
There are Rasta communities around the world, including Toronto where I’ve been to One Love, which serves ital and other Caribbean vegan meals. However, my introduction to Rastafarian cuisine was in Japan of all places. Around the time I was heading to Japan, Heidi gushed over Tokyo’s only ital noodle shop. Sure enough, a lover of food but not even vegetarian at the time, we scoped out this teeny tiny restaurant completely off the tourist track. We enjoyed our noodles and other veggie dishes. While this was Heidi’s best meal of her trip, I will admit that my fresh sashimi was unbeatable at the Tsukiji Market. If I were vegan at the time, I would have really appreciated the vegan soba noodles. In Japan, fresh soba noodles are richer because they are typically made with Japanese fish broth, dashi.
Now that I am vegan, I was stoked to try Rasta Pasta that I found in Big Vegan. A bowl full of vegetables (green beans! mushrooms! collards!, tomato!), with some noodles, too, in a coconut-curry-tomato sauce. It had a lot of the similar ingredients as my favourite Kelp Noodles, Baby Bok Choy, Broccoli and Red Pepper with a Coconut-Peanut Sauce but it was so different. The recipe called for 1 tbsp of curry powder. I’ve made other Caribbean dishes that were unpalatable by their heat (ok for Rob, just not me), so I went tame. I didn’t even use curry powder. I substituted 1 tsp of garam masala instead.
It was a quick noodle stir-fry. With the garam masala, it was savoury. It lacked the sweetness from coconut-peanut sauce, and originally I thought it was rather pungent but truthfully, as I ate the leftovers, that was exactly why I liked it. Nothing too crazy and creamy, just a savoury veggie and noodle dish. However, now that the Madras curry powder has been given the green light in my kitchen, I’d love to try this again with curry powder. If you try it, let me know how you like it!
As a vegan, where would you prefer to travel?
When reflecting on my top meals of the year, I had a hard time picking my favourites. Did I want to highlight the easy weeknight meals, or the more elaborate concoctions? Taste was number one on my mind, and I have had great successes in my kitchen this year.
My secret? Great recipes but most importantly fresh ingredients. It’s the fresh lemon juice, the garlic cloves and the vegetables. The beans cooked from scratch. I still scour the flyers on a weekly basis, but Sunny’s is my go-to grocer, as the produce is fresh and always reasonably priced. The fresh herbs from my garden were also a huge flavour boost this summer. I never knew I loved thyme so much until I wiped my plant clean before the winter. Rob’s chili plant also provided us with tons of chilis, which we subsequently dried this fall.
While I am still a weakling with regards to chilis and peppers, my tolerance towards garlic has definitely increased over the year. When I made the 15-Minute Zippy Garlic-Basil Marinara with Zucchini Noodles for my family, they commented on the strong garlic flavour. They enjoyed it but weren’t used to the garlic. For me, it was perfect with 5 cloves of raw garlic, and I really had to think about it before the garlic registered. I didn’t even bat an eye when I used 6 cloves of raw garlic in the Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Salad, 8 (pan-fried) cloves of garlic for The New Best Salad Ever, 10 cloves of (roasted) garlic with broccoli and chickpeas, 14 cloves of raw and roasted with this Spanish stew, or a whole 1/3 cup (12 cloves) with my baked beans. I love my garlic.
Tess‘ recipes introduced me to meals with fresh citrus juice and lots of garlic. I go through garlic so fast that I can buy the package with 40-50 pre-peeled garlic cloves before it goes bad. I also can easily stock up on lemons and limes and need frequent replenishment (whereas a year ago, sometimes I would use the limes to clean my pots!). I honestly feel like this has been a blessing to my cooking – the flavours really pop. Fresh lemon juice makes a world of difference compared to the bottled stuff.
I always plan out a week’s worth of meals, cooking them on a weekend, usually opting for a bean dish, a grain dish and either a soup or salad. I also try to make sure I don’t go too long without a recipe from Tess! Sometimes I go into Tess recipe withdrawal.
My Mom warned me that I might start to smell like garlic if I eat too much raw garlic. She didn’t mean my breath, rather my sweat.
This time, when I picked another highly-rated recipe from Tess, her Asian Kale Salad from The Two Week Wellness Solution (recipe also here), I erred on the side of caution: I decreased the agave, ginger and garlic (sacrilegious, I know!) while increasing the lime juice and omitting the orange juice. Adding edamame made this into a delicious main-course salad. There was a perfect merriment of flavours with a zippy and sweet dressing with the earthy kale and creamy edamame.
To be fair, no one has ever said I smell like garlic – certainly not from my pores.. garlic breath, perhaps? So, have no fear and increase the garlic to your tummy’s and heart’s content!
Rob can be bad at keeping secrets. He leaked that he wanted to buy me a dehydrator for Christmas in September.. or maybe October. I rationalized that it was in both our interests to get it while we were still brimming with autumn harvests (mainly our herbs and peppers). Hehehe… Rob had tried drying his chili peppers in the oven on the “keep warm” setting and it took many days to dry completely. Not that energy or time efficient. So…. the dehydrator arrived early and we dehydrated our summer bounty of chili peppers. Then moved on to apple chips, dehydrated pineapple and kale chips.
But it wasn’t much of a surprise when the dehydrator arrived. Rob didn’t even hide when it was available to be picked up from the store.
What was a surprise was when my first issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter arrived in my mailbox this week. I’ve written about this fabulous publication three times before, which I describe as the Consumer’s Reports of healthy food. I usually read my Mom’s leftover issues, but this time she bought me my own subscription. Yahoo! However, someone goofed (not my Mom) and I received the December 2011 issue. Not really a problem because I love this issue, but it arrived before Christmas.. totally spoiling the Christmas Day surprise.
The December 2011 issue, itself, was a great issue. The feature article is all about which foods actually improve your health based on scientific research. Want to lower your cholesterol? Your best bet in to focus on foods high in unsaturated fats like oils, nuts and fatty fish. The second best option is to consume foods high in soluble fibre like beans, oats and psyllium. As they explain, it is important to replace foods with trans- and saturated fats (meat, butter, cheese, cream, etc). It can be too easy to add additional calories through nuts, which are caloric-dense, but if you increase your refined carbs as a result of decreasing your fats, your triglycerides could increase, too (not good). They also talk about the best foods to protect your eyes, prevent colon cancer, staying regular and lowering your blood pressure (yes, the DASH diet is better than any single medication on the market).
Previously, my favourite article has been their ratings of vegetables where kale tops their list. I know all veggies are good for you, but I am such a numbers girl. However, with my new subscription they sent me a small pamphlet with ratings of other staples: fruit, beans (!!!), grains, lean meats and spreads. Of course, I was drawn to the best of the beans ratings.
While I know each bean is different, I always thought they were nearly similar nutritionally – full of fibre, folate and other vitamins. Only Nutrition Action would rate them! They based their ratings on the percentage of daily value of that each cup of cooked bean possessed for fibre, protein, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, vitamin B6 and potassium.
Interestingly enough, at the top of their list was edamame and at the bottom of the list was tofu, both soy products. Compared to other beans, edamame (soybeans) are unique because they contain more iron and protein (also fat!) with decreased levels of folate and fibre. This explains why they are so creamy.
In honour of winning the title of “best bean”, I thought I’d share a fabulous avocado-edamame dip: guacamole with edamame… guacamame? Or, as Tess called it in Radiance 4 Life: Green Velvet Guacamole. I modified the recipe slightly by increasing the lime juice and garlic for some added zip. If you like bits in your guac, feel free to add chopped tomatoes and onions.. or whatever floats your boat. The edamame adds creaminess and body to your dip but more importantly, additional fibre and protein than you would get from an extra avocado.
I love frozen edamame (ok only the pre-shelled kind, otherwise I start to curse), because they are easy to throw into all sorts of dishes- stir fries, soups and salads. Need only a cup? Not a problem!
Here are some of my favourite recipes with edamame:
This is my submission to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.
I live in the largest city in Canada, with a population of 2.5 million, and my favourite restaurant is in a town with only 100,000 people. I’ve only been to Thrive Juice Bar once but it was enough to have me hooked. Sadly, the commute kills me. They aren’t open late on Saturdays, and not open at all on Sundays, which makes it hard to visit.
I really liked their pad thai which was overflowing with Asian vegetables topped with a spicy cashew sauce, with a raw option to replace the rice noodles with even more veggies! The menu says it is filled with daikon radish, snap peas, bok choy, Asian cabbage with a raw cashew pad thai sauce, topped with spicy peanuts and cashews, Thai basil and Thai mint (??), while finished with an almond chili oil and mint lime vinaigrette. Wowzers, eh? I am not even going to try to recreate it home because it seems so complex.
I will, however, try out something more simple. Something just as tasty, even though it was not at all the same. But it definitely made me go Mmmmmm! Yes, I made MamaPea’s infamous Peanut Mmmm Sauce!
Inspired by Thrive, I loaded my dish up with veggies: a huge bunch of baby bok choy, 2 red peppers, broccoli and edamame. For my noodles, I opted for kelp noodles, but feel free to use soba instead. Or as they used to do at Thrive, add more veggies! (Scanning their recent menu, it now seems that the raw option is to add kelp noodles). The sauce is a zippy and creamy peanut-based sauce that coats the veggies ever so lightly. Delicious…. all I can hear is the resonant Mmmmm…
This is a super simple dish to make, to boot. Perfect when you have leftover coconut milk. Whiz together your sauce, then quickly stirfry your veggies to remove their raw edge, but keep them crisp and bright. Add your noodles and simmer a bit with your sauce. Now you’re good to eat!
My mom thinks this vegan stuff is just a phase. Just as I go through other phases in my cooking, she tried to rationalize. She explained that first I was into cooking Japanese after my trip to Japan (all those soba noodles, Janet!), then Middle Eastern after visiting Turkey and Moroccan after my trip to Morocco. Each time, I venture into new cookbooks, find new spices, but truly, I incorporate everything I learn into all my meals. New ingredients, new flavours and new techniques.. it is all a learning process, as life should be. And yes, my pantry continues to gather new and exciting staples.
Granted, I can only eat so much, so I might tackle different cuisines in spurts. A little of Morocco here, a side trip to Brazil here, a quick jet to Egypt and then returning back to Japan. In these around-the-world culinary experiences, sometimes I forget how much I like certain ingredients. Case in point: miso. Last year, I bought miso for the first time to make baked eggplant with miso, which I adored at restos and could easily make at home. I also made miso-crusted black cod and a few other dishes which were great but then I went to Turkey… and forgot about miso.
Until, I made a Japanese winter stew with a miso-based broth. That kick-started it again. Loved it. It wasn’t the star of the meal, but it added an extra dimension. Then I made the orange-beet soup that had an extra twist from the miso. Followed up by the exquisitely delicious zesty orange cashew spread, I knew I had rediscovered an old favourite ingredient.
Plus, the great thing about miso is that I still had the same package from last year. It keeps forever in your fridge!! Discover it, forget about it, but let yourself rediscover it as you clean out your fridge.
I made this for Rob’s birthday, which had a Japanese-theme for his meal, and I loved it as an Asian spin on hummus. You use creamy edamame instead of chickpeas, but you still have lots of garlic and tahini for the prototypical hummus flavour. Instead of traditional lemon juice, lime juice is used. Throw in some spinach for some greenery, and you have a healthy, delicious dip.
It is not just a hummus made with edamame. I had the Trader Joe’s edamame hummus after eating this dip and was sorely disappointed – where was the miso?
It is creamy, smooth, salty with a bit of zip. Without knowing the ingredients, it is hard to place the flavours exactly, but you know it tastes great. Serve it with veggies, pita bread, or as a spread for a sandwich.
Sometimes greens go on sale, so when T&T had 2 bunches of watercress on sale for 88 cents, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying a new green. I didn’t even know what I wanted to make, but I knew it would come to me.
Of course, greens can easily be interchanged. Baby spinach may be sweeter, but Swiss chard could work as well. Want something with more bite? Add arugula. Want something with an even stronger peppery snap? Try watercress!
I love Japanese food because it highlights simplicity while balancing all the major tastes (bitter, sour, sweet, hot, salty, and delicate). While most of the Japanese dishes I make play more on the sweet side, I loved the change of pace with this more earthy stir-fry.
Adapted from ExtraVeganZa, I fooled around with the veggies, but the essence of the dish was the same. I swapped watercress for the spinach, used more shiitake mushrooms and edamame beans, and added in snow peas. The primary flavours were ginger as well as the earthy-flavour from the dulse (a kind of seaweed).
My only initial complaint was from the cornstarch, because I don’t really like it. It was more noticeable when the dish was eaten fresh, less so as leftovers. I found it important to deglaze the pan, although next time I would omit it and deglaze with less liquid. Otherwise, it was fine as leftovers.
Not sure watercress will make it into my backyard garden, though, as it doesn’t seem to be suitable without lots of water!
I did not hold out for Ontario strawberries. The Californian ones were on sale, too, and perfectly ripe after I left them on my counter for a few days.
Right now, after chowing down on this salad, I don’t care that I didn’t eat local. This was springtime in a bowl, with a dash of summer from the strawberries.
I was inspired by Joanne after I saw her Goat Cheese, Strawberry and Basil Salad. I trotted off to buy some cheap asparagus to go with my ripe strawberries, and was pleased how everything came into place at the grocery store (my new favourite grocery store, better than Bestwin!).
Ontario asparagus was $1.99 a pound, and wasn’t even advertised. I picked the bunch with the thinnest stalks. I had mint at home, so I had planned to forgo basil. However, they had the biggest bunches of basil that I ever did see. Complete with roots, they were that fresh. It tipped my scales at 290g for $1.50 (again, not advertised). I scored a 1-lb clamshell of baby spring mix for $1.99. They have random containers marked down, but it looked fresh and with an expiry date a week away, I saw no reason not to buy it. I had my juicy strawberries already, so I was all set!
At home, I quickly assembled my salad for one. Steamed my asparagus, quickly blanched some edamame (frozen beans are great for small amounts), thrown overtop the baby greens and basil and drizzled it with mosto cotto. Yes, I christened my Eatalian mosto cotto with this salad. It was divine. Simplicity at its finest.
Mosto cotto (also known as saba), is a a condensed balsamic vinegar made with reduced Concord grapes and then aged for at least 12 years. I was introduced to mosto cotto when Chef Gentile from Buca was at Tastes of Tomorrow. He used it as a finish for a red wine, cinnamon, clove-marinated beef heart salad with grilled radicchio di Treviso, balsamic braised chipling onions, Tallegio cheese, crispy sage, dandelion greens and pickled fig, lightly drizzled with olive oil and mosto cotto. It was delicious.
He highlighted that certain ingredients are worth their weight in gold. Mosto cotto is an expensive balasmic vinegar, but still considered a poor man’s balsamic vinegar. Compared to the traditional balsamic vinegar it doesn’t compare: it is a thicker syrup with a deep, complex and sweet flavour. I have been wooed to the dark side and recommend searching it out (Amazon.com sells it, and should be found in specialty Italian grocers – I bought mine at Eataly while in New York City). In this recipe, you could substitute a balsamic syrup by boiling down some balsamic vinegar, or just use a good quality balsamic vinegar.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for strawberries, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Smitha of Kannada Cuisine, this month’s No Croutons Required featuring asparagus and to this month’s Simple and in Season for May.
After the early bedtime on Sunday, I thankfully got my mojo back in the kitchen! My brain and body got the rest they needed for me to become prolific in the kitchen once again.
The next day, after work, I tackled the rest of my week’s menu which included this smoky tempeh and chard stew, adapted from Appetite for Reduction. It came together seamlessly, as I prepped while things steamed, fried and simmered.
I obviously decided to make this stew last week, when we were in the midst of heavy, dreary rainy weather. It was a hearty stew, and after a few tweaks, filled with ingredients already in my kitchen when I didn’t want to head out to the grocery store. Unfortunately, by the time I made it (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), the weather turned around completely. This week we have been enjoying sunny, bright days with highs around 18C. Perfect, spring weather. More akin to spring salads, but this smoky tempeh stew still tastes great.
It is a lovely, hearty stew. It is filled with a tomato-based sauce with a smokiness coming from sweet smoked paprika. Carrots are added for additional flavour and you have a good nutritional punch from Swiss chard, or your favourite green. In fact, I liked using the stems from the Swiss chard for additional crunch (don’t discard the stems!). Tempeh is steamed, then fried to get a crispy coating, and added for an interesting texture and source of protein. While the original recipe called for frozen lima beans, I used frozen shelled edamame instead. Together, we have a winning combination of a hearty, healthy and filling stew. Perfect for the winter, or rainy days, but I am certainly not complaining about the wonderful spring weather that has finally arrived.